20080510

A Taint To Remember

Kodiyeri in PB

Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has reached the Politburo, but his track record is murky

KA SHAJI

ON THE EXACT day when Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was getting elevated to the Politburo at the CPM’s Coimbatore Party Congress, the Kerala High Court was making a scathing attack on his police policy which had failed miserably in restoring normalcy in Kannur, scene of violent clashes between the CPM and
the RSS. That was not the first time the court came down heavily on Balakrishnan’s police. Soon after the latest bout of political violence in Kannur in March, the court even questioned the sincerity of the investigating officials and condemned the political interference in investigations.

Despite all this, Balakrishnan made it to the politburo, outscoring even senior collegues like Education Minister MA Baby and Local Administration Minister Paloly Mohammed Kutty. As far as Chief Minister Achuthanandan is concerned, Balakrishnan is a lesser evil to him compared to Baby and Kutty, loyalists of the CPM’s Kerala secretary Pinarayi Vijan. For an average Keralite, Balakrishnan is a product of the party’s lumpen political ethos in the volatile Kannur district. Balakrishnan started his political career as a party strongman in the region where the cadre often engaged in the “politics of annihilation”. Like Pinarayi Vijayan, he always justified the criminal elements within the party fold by speaking of the need of self-defence against the BJP-RSS communalists.

Though elected to the state Assembly on four occasions from Thalassery, he never held any administrative position before being made the home minister. Vijayan’s moves to foil Achuthanandan’s attempts at becoming the chief minister by denying him a seat backfired when the cadre and the public went up in protest. But Vijayan vowed not to allow him the prestigious home ministry. He chose Balakrishnan for the post ignoring his lack of administrative acumen. The elevation of Balakrishnan to the Politburo, it seems, is a clever strategy to create yet another power centre in Vijayan’s home turf of Kannur. Even though Balakrishnan chose to ignore the “media finding” that he would turn a new power centre in Kannur politics, top sources within the party say that if Vijayan is indicted in the multi-crore SNC Lavlin scam by the CBI, the central leadership can hand over the secretaryship to Balakrishnan.

They are also hoping Balakrishnan would be the ideal candidate for chief ministership after the retirement of Achuthanandan. But, before all that happens, Balakrishnan must squeeze himself out of an old scandal that is refusing to go away. Balakrishnan is accused of performing puja at the Kadampuzha temple in Malappuram district, which many believe helps in eliminating one’s enemies. The CPM, in self-defence, says that Balakrishnan is a proclaimed atheist and no ritual meant for eliminating adversaries was conducted at the temple on his behalf. But the allegation against Balakrishnan persists. Balakrishnan turned defensive when Janashakti, a Marxist publication, reported last year that the wife and son of the home minister had performed the puja at the temple after manipulating the list using his influence as minister.

AN IRKED Balakrishnan soon ordered a crime branch inquiry to prove his innocence but no probe has been held so far. Last week, the Kerala home department pleaded ignorance about such an inquiry ordered by the minister when an advocate sought details of the probe using the RTI Act. When the issue refused to die down, Balakrishnan asked the state crime branch to look into the affair. The explanation of the party was this: Balakrishnan, in whose name the puja was performed on August 6, 2006, was not the home minister but a high school teacher who went by the same name. But the temple authorities were not ready to buy the explanation. “I am absolutely certain that the people I received at the temple were the minister’s wife and members of his family accompanied by a circle inspector and personal staff,”
said a temple official, who preferred anonymity. Despite his unimpressive track record, Balakrishnan’s political credibility will now depend on how fast he extricates himself from the scandal he is currently embroiled in.



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